H-Mart and why I love shopping there.
In my last post, I talked about my favorite online store to shop at. I really dislike going to the grocery store so I usually ask my husband to go. If I do go the grocery store, I usually go only for a couple of things. Just meandering around the store is not an option for me. My heart disease and meandering do not mix.
But, there is one grocery store I would gladly go to: H-Mart. H-Mart is a grocery store that offers Asian products. It started off as a small store in Queens, New York in 1980 and H-Mart is short for Han Ah Reum, which in Korean means one arm full of groceries (source: http://nj.hmart.com/about-us/history/). I didn’t even know that! 🙂 They now have more than 56 stores throughout the country.
Unfortunately, there is no store close to where we live. So whenever we go to H-Mart, it is always a special trip.
When we go to H-Mart, I am willing to drag myself through the store (if my heart is not cooperating) in order to have the shopping experience.
This last time, I was feeling somewhat okay so I just leaned heavily on the cart as we shopped.
As I wrote in my first post, when we lived in Japan, I fell in love with the culture, food and everything Asian. We visited Korea a few times and I added my love for Korean stuff (and K-drama lol) to the list. So once we moved to the US, finding H-Mart made me ecstatic!
H-Mart has a gazillion samples of their products. Last time we went, there was a person with a little table at every aisle, on both ends and the middle of the aisle! No kidding- there was a ridiculous number of samples! Not that we were complaining 🙂 We sampled all kinds of fruit- Asian melon, Asian, pear (one of my daughter’s favorite fruits), peaches, mango. There were meat samples, soup samples, frozen treat samples, takoyaki samples ( Japanese snack of round balls filled a minced squid), drink samples ( Calpico, yum!).
If you go to H-Mart, help yourself to the samples! They are awesome! (okay, the takoyaki is not my thing lol).
Here is my daughter sampling some shabu shabu ( meat and veggies cooked in a hot pot in a sauce). This was advertising the sauces you can see on the table ( and the trash can I forgot to crop out ..ooops)
By they way, shabu shabu restaurants are awesome too! 🙂
2. Japanese Kit Kats!
H-Mart is the only place we have found reasonably priced Japanese Kit Kats. I had found them at a local bookstore (of all places) at $11.99 a bag! We used to pay 278 Yen per bag. At the time that was about $2.50! I know things would be more expensive here but almost 5 times?
Anyway, the Kit Kats at H-Mart were $4.99 a bag. Very reasonable! We got three flavors- raspberry ( we have had this before) and ginger and Japanese sake (new flavors for us!). I can’t eat the Kit Kats since I eat gluten free because of my thyroid. But I had to try the candy covering the wafer. And I was surprised how much I like the sake flavor! :).
We used to buy every flavor we could get our hands on in Japan. They have so many flavors- pumpkin, taro, purple sweet potato, strawberry cheesecake, wasabi ( not my cup of tea!), custard, matcha (my favorite!), sakura matcha (during the spring time).
Back in the day when I was eating gluten, I truly enjoyed trying new flavors!
3. Awesome beverages!
H-Mart has a great variety of beverages. I really miss the Asian vending machines. There were everywhere (there were vending machines on the way up to the mountain that was next to our building) and had such a smorgasbord of options to choose from. Well, H-Mart has some of the beverages we enjoyed.
My daughter is especially happy because she fell in love with Banana flavored milk while we were visiting Korea. They are UHT treated so I can stock up and they wont take up space in the refrigerator. I stocked up for school 🙂
Another type of drink is the yogurt based drink- they have different flavors and we sampled those too! And we bought a big bottle of Peach flavored Calpico. It’s Japanese and I used to buy it a lot (in different varieties) in Japan.
4. Frozen Treats
We usually buy these during the summer. They are called Choo Bars and come in different flavors. I love them to try and beat the heat of summer! They come in these flexible plastic “bottles” and you squeeze them to get the frozen goodness out.
We also love the ice cream fish! And no it’s not fish flavored ice cream! Although we had opportunity to try unusual flavors of ice cream at the aquarium in Sasebo, Japan ( we bought the seaweed ice cream and my daughter was of the opinion that trying it once was enough lol). Anyway, the ice cream fish I speak of is ice cream sandwich in the shape of a fish- it can be chocolate, strawberry or red bean flavor. The ice cream and the flavor are completely enclosed in cone like shell. So when you bite into it, the outer shell is slight crispy and then the inside is soft an gooey and bursting with flavor. YUM! T0o bad it has been a while since I have tried it (that darn gluten!). We didn’t buy the fish this time as it would have melted during our 2.5 hour drive home.
5. Microwave sticky rice and Korean roasted seaweed.
Now, I know you can get the microwave rice at regular grocery stores but buying a whole box of it is a lot more economical. I usually pay at least $2 per one rice bowl. I paid $13.99 for the box of 12 rice bowls. That’s a sweet deal in my book!
My daughter and I both love rice and seaweed. We wrap the rice in the seaweed an eat it. Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and the two go so well together. So yummy! My daughter likes to take that as lunch for school. Sometimes I go all fancy and shape the rice with my animal rice molds ( Japanese purchase). Or just make a rough roll with the seaweed when I am feeling lazy. Whatever shape I make them they taste delicious!
The seaweed is absolutely scrumptious on its own as a snack. My daughter has been known to eat like 6 packets in one sitting!
These are my top reasons fro loving H-Mart but I literally could buy so many more things!
My daughter talked me into buying her a Japanese food themed craft/toy- you build different foods with edible clay-like material ( I guess it’s like fondant).
This particular H-Mart (in Edison, NJ) has restaurants, cosmetics stores, cute accessory and stationery store. And its all in one building. So as we were walking out after we paid for our groceries, my daughter and eye stopped at the cute accessory store. They had pens upon pens! I was so happy!
I had bought myself a lot of colored pens from Japan before we left and most still work. And to this date they are the best pens I have owned. So they had the same brands (Sarasa, Pilot Juice, Uni, etc).
The prices were a bit high so I bought some other brand pens at $1.39 each. I couldn’t resist the pens 🙂
They also had a huge selection of K-Pop socks. For those who don’t know, K-pop socks are socks hat have K-pop bands and artists on them. I do own a pair I bought myself in Korea years ago (haven’t worn them yet!). By the way, Korean socks are the BEST! That is the only type of socks I wear. I stocked up during our last trip to Korea in 2015 and still have brand new socks on my top shelf in my closet. 🙂 Shopping the outdoor markets was the best- they had so many things and so many socks lol. I swear the last time I bought about 50 pairs at 1000 Won a pair (about $1).
I have a friend who went to Korea for a month and asked her to get me some socks. She will be coming back soon so I can’t wait to see what she got me!
Well, that’s all for my Asian grocery store experience post. We have local Asian stores where we live and I am thankful for them (and love them!) since we run out of seaweed often!
What grocery store is your favorite to shop at? Why?